Maiden Speech - Mark Mitchell
National MP for Rodney
16 February 2011
(Check against delivery)
Mr. Speaker, I stand before you today filled with pride at been given the opportunity by the people of Rodney to represent them in this our 50th Parliament and am honoured to be addressing the house for the first time.
I congratulate you on your reappointment to the high office of speaker. You have already been recognized across this house for your sound judgment and fairness and I look forward to being under your guidance in this chamber.
Mr. Speaker. You have been the Minister of Education, Agriculture, Tourism and Trade during your career.
Overseeing the producer board reform that ultimately led to the creation of Fonterra and Zespri, you launched our successful 100% pure marketing campaign which was a global success.
Perhaps most importantly you were the original instigator of the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Mr. Speaker you are also renowned for your singing voice and your annual concert in Rodney is an event constituents look forward to every year. I have made a commitment to continue with this concert and although I feel my own voice is pretty good I have been assured by those closest to me that I need to find another way of keeping that tradition alive.
Mr. Speaker, I live in Orewa, in the heart of the Rodney electorate.
Rodney is a wonderful part of New Zealand stretching from Albany Heights, Wainui and Dairy flat in the south, to Warkworth, Matakana and Leigh in the North.
We have been blessed with the beautiful Hibiscus and Kowhai coasts, stunning regional parks like Shakespeare, Wenderholm and Mahurangi, and home to two marine reserves one of which, Goat Island, was the first in New Zealand.
The new northern motorway has bought Auckland closer to Rodney and our towns in the south of the electorate are experiencing strong growth while still retaining their unique character.
Further north our communities are more rural; some have become famous like Puhoi for its Pub and Cheese Factory or Waiwera for its geothermal hot pools.
We have the charm and history of Warkworth, world class wine trails, great schools, strong communities and a real pride in our beautiful part of New Zealand.
However there are challenges ahead and I am focused on finding solutions that will allow us to develop our infrastructure and services in step with our population growth.
This includes the Puhoi to Wellsford motorway extension, the Penlink development and I will work on common sense policies and legislation that will encourage investment and growth in our local Business’s and economy.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge my superb campaign team who worked incredibly hard, who did the basics superbly combined with innovative ideas and really took the campaign to our opponents.
I know many of you are gathered around the TV in Warkworth and Orewa today and although I can’t mention everyone, you know that our result was a testament to your drive, passion and belief in the National Party values and vision for a brighter future.
I would like to make special mention of our Electorate Chair Jennie Georgetti and Campaign Chair John Evans, your determination and will were contagious.
Thanks also to our regional executive, Alan Towers and Stephen McElrea, Stephen your solid dependable advice and guidance was of great assistance to a new candidate.
To our National Campaign team who provided a steady rudder and reliable compass to us all.
And to President Peter Goodfellow and our Board of Directors for your support, guidance and council.
I was born on the North Shore of Auckland and spent my first years living on Whenuapai Air Force base.
My Dad was a Flt Lt flying Orion’s on 3 squadron. My Mum was the daughter of the Base Commander Air Commodore Frank Gill. My Grandfather was also the National Party MP for East Coast Bays, Minister of Health and Defence and our New Zealand Ambassador to Washington.
Dad managed to catch the eye of my mum at a base dance and the rest as they say is history.
One of the great lessons I learnt early from my Dad was about not giving up.
When the inaugural Auckland Star Times Takapuna to Rangitoto race was cancelled due to bad weather Dad decided to make the swim anyway. He battled strong winds and swells to complete a difficult swim.
He won the race and set the best time. Being the only competitor didn’t matter.
Because my Mum was the daughter of a career Air Force Officer and spent her childhood on different postings around the world when she was finally able to settle in one place she nested.
There were four of us kids but our house was always filled with orphans that Mum would take under her wing.
I learnt early that not everyone is born into a loving caring home and that when we can help we should.
I am from Irish Catholic, English and Canadian stock with my ancestors arriving in NZ from 1860 through to 1919.
I was educated at Rosmini College in Auckland; a Catholic School whose motto is Legis Plentido Charitas, Charity fulfils the law.
A Google search of Social Justice will result in the name of Father Antonio Rosmini, the original founder of the school.
I am a strong advocate for social justice, however I reject claims that social justice and conservatism are exclusive of one another.
On leaving school I went farming in the central North Island.
I was lucky enough to be given my first job by Gary Ramsay who is here today in the gallery.
Farming taught me what long hours of hard physical work and graft were all about.
Our farmers and the rural sector is where our number 8 wire attitude and common sense approach to problem solving was born.
From my own time overseas in a competitive environment I discovered that those problem solving skills and failure is not an option attitude, helped me stand out amongst the crowd.
As a country we need to recognize the importance of these qualities’ and fight hard to retain them as part of our culture and psyche.
In 1989 I joined the New Zealand Police. I was a member of the Dog Section and Armed Offenders Squad.
I would like to acknowledge the Officer in Charge of the Police Dog Training Centre Snr Sgt John Edmonds who is here today.
I was lucky to have been able to serve with you and it is a great honour to have you both present today.
My partner on the Dog section was a small black German shepherd named Czar.
When we graduated our final report stated Czar was a natural born Police Dog and that if the team didn’t perform operationally the handler should be replaced not the dog.
He loved children but didn’t have much time for adults.
One of the first jobs we attended together put us head to head with an offender armed with a samurai sword and whose intent was to attack medical staff at Rotorua hospital.
During the arrest both Czar and I were stabbed, me through my right arm and Czar in the chest.
We both recovered although I never regained the full use of my arm.
I thank the Hon Judith Collins for the leadership she provided in making sure our Police officers were given every tactical advantage and option available.
Had tasers been around in my day I would have a much better tennis swing.
One thing I could see early in my career was the amount of damage gangs and organized crime did to our communities.
Whether they be the Mongrel Mob, Hells Angels or Asian triads they are parasites living off the backs of our communities and a bunch of low life cowards.
Hunting in packs they rob, steal, rape, murder, intimidate, assault and generally terrorize anyone unlucky enough to get in their way. Many of the social issues we face today are connected either directly or indirectly to the gang culture.
Our Police Service is now been led by leaders rather than managers, with morale the highest it has been for years and with the best Police Officers in the world we are on the right side of the ledger in continuing to tackle gangs and organized crime.
Our brave men and women of all our emergency services have my full support, admiration and gratitude for the services you provide our country.
I make a commitment to my electorate that I will be strong on Law and Order and support changes to bail laws that strengthen the rights and protection for victims of crime.
Our Rodney health services are very important with a growing population and a high number of older people choosing to retire in Rodney.
I support our locally driven initiatives like the Rodney Health Trust and Rodney Day Surgical Centre who are providing local services for our communities.
I am proud of how far we have come as a country in our understanding, caring and tolerance of those suffering from a mental illness or depression.
I was often asked if I was angry at the person who stabbed me who at the time was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
No I wasn’t angry with him. He didn’t wake up one morning saying I want to be paranoid schizophrenic. He was ill with a sickness he didn’t want.
In 2000 I lost my younger brother Sean. He was intelligent, the life of the party, an active member of the Auckland Coastguard rescue team and diagnosed with Manic Depression.
He wrote a letter to us, his family and then swam into the Rangitoto channel. We found him the next day washed up on Rangitoto Island.
We love and miss you Sean.
I applaud John Kirwan and the courage it took to tell his own story about depression and the debilitating effects it can have.
I am committed to supporting the mental health services in our communities.
In 2002 I resigned from the Police to live a quiet life raising and training horses in Taupo.
But fate had other plans and in 2003 I found myself in Iraq as part of a small team establishing a safety and security programme for the newly formed interim Government.
It was a tough year for me because for the first time in my life I was exposed to the ugliness of corruption, extreme ideologies, and very little regard for human life.
The first election in Iraq had over 7000 candidates for 235 Parliamentary positions.
Opposing candidates would dispose of each other with road side bombs or hit squads.
It helped for me to put some context around the teapot tapes last year.
In 2005 I was asked to establish the Provincial Joint Operations Centre in southern Iraq.
This was the command centre of all the newly formed Iraqi security forces.
Iraq faces some very big challenges in their rebuild, but I was lucky enough to work with some very good men and women, and where there are good men and women there is hope.
In 2005 I was approached and asked to establish a security programme for a company that was providing food and life support to the coalition in Iraq.
Seen as a legitimate target by Al Qaeda as they were supporting the Government, employees of the company were being attacked and killed.
The security programme I put in place was successful and soon I was being approached by Governments, including the United States, Japan and Australia to assist with logistics’ and protective support in high threat and difficult environments.
Although I have the deepest respect for organizations such as the United Nations I also saw how difficult it was for big bureaucratic organization’s to move quickly when sometimes people needed protection and aid today as it would be to late tomorrow.
I am proud of the fact I was part of a dedicated team that formed an initiative backed by the World Economic Forum to create Emergency Logistics Teams set up to deploy aid into areas struck by humanitarian disasters.
I am proud that we lead refugees out of Lebanon to safety when they were trapped in a war between Israel and Hezbollah.
That we protected and supported scientists from The Hague to open and take evidence from mass graves in their case against Saddam Hussein.
Delivered food and medical supplies to flood ravaged areas of Pakistan and ensured it got to the people that needed it.
That we were able to open up a supply chain to get food and supplies into Darfur and Mogadishu.
Mr Speaker, I have been a Farmer, Policeman, small business owner, and the founder of a successful global company.
I understand the pressures they face, the responsibility they carry and the importance that each one plays in the future of our country.
But they can’t carry the weight by themselves.
I believe that for the privilege of living in this beautiful country regardless of when we arrived we all have the same obligation and that is to look for ways to contribute to New Zealand’s future.
Finally Mr Speaker, I would like to acknowledge my family.
To my wife Peggy, I would not be standing here today delivering this maiden speech if it wasn’t for your unconditional love and support.
You have helped me achieve my dream and I hope that I can help you achieve yours.
To my children; Taylor, Spencer and Jazlin.
Your father was taken from you and New Zealand too early.
Possum was the only sportsman in New Zealand to beat the Aussies in their own National Championship 7 times in row. What a legend.
But first and foremost he was a loving and caring father.
I will continue to do my best to provide you with the love and security that your father would have provided.
To my Daughter Sylvie, yes honey it did feel like life had really begun for me when you came into this world and I am very proud of the caring young lady you are growing into.
To my son Nathan, you’re the man…your energy and enthusiasm for life is contagious.
To my sisters Lissa and Tracey, thank you for being here today. Thank you to Auntie Francis and Uncle Rodney; Geoffrey and Lynda Bourne for being here also.
Mr Speaker, I am back in the service of my country. There is no greater honour.